It’s been a busy few years for Thurston Moore, not all of which has to do with his art. The dissolution of Sonic Youth, triggered by Moore’s separation from Kim Gordon, sent that band’s members in their own separate directions, sparking murmurs of personal unrest — and the occasional blurt of insensitivity — in interviews. All of which is a natural response to the rupture of a beloved band, where all the members are nearby and have ties outside the group holding them together. Everyone winds up taking a side.
The Best Day, no matter how distant, seems to be Moore’s first real shot at addressing some of these issues. Retreating from both woodsy, mature folk (2007’s Trees Outside The Academy, 2011’s Demolished Thoughts) and the wild punk/noise bombast of last year’s Chelsea Light Moving album, The Best Day is almost calming in its familiarity, particularly as it recalls a minor-key update of SY’s well-loved late-’90s salvo A Thousand Leaves. Even-handed and steady, repetitious and assured, these eight songs encourage the listener to peer inside, where the details of his decisions lie in wait.
A two-bar calibration between Moore and guitarist James Sedwards kicks off “Speak To The Wild,” and is repeated right before the coda, almost like a test tone to bring the song’s lengthy buildup and considerate construction into the greater focus required to unpack the development of “Forevermore.” Opening up over the course of 11 minutes and change, Moore crafts The Best Day‘s longest piece around romantic, possessive lyrics shot through with Catholic imagery. Is this an arch burndown of a love song, written to exorcise his past, or a 30-year reminder that love and its dark underbelly exist on opposite sides of the same alluring plane? As “Forevermore” plows forward — anchored by longtime collaborator Steve Shelley on drums and My Bloody Valentine‘s Deb Googe on bass — keys change, melodies are copied, mutated and withdrawn, and certainty is winnowed down to what listeners can count within themselves.
Elsewhere, the post-punk rocker “Detonation” could pass for Moore’s clearest response to rumors and hearsay about his personal life; it’s couched in metaphors regarding social protest and informants that break it all up under the guise of what he calls “clandestinity.” The decaying autumnal duality of “Tape” (more closely hewing to Led Zeppelin‘s epic “The Battle Of Evermore” than anything in Sonic Youth’s past) and the ever-darkening “Vocabularies” (chugging along in a tricky time signature) make The Best Day a record of the windy season, as Moore finds new life amid the dried thorns and dead leaves. “Start a fire, stop a fight,” Moore barks in “Germs Burn,” and for the first time since his debut solo album Psychic Hearts, he’s made one to celebrate the post-harvest, pre-winter chill. The anger of similar efforts like SY’s Bad Moon Rising has been burned off in a brush pile, leaving only the sweet smoke of longer nights and colder climates. As a statement of purpose, Moore sounds ready to move forward into the next phase of his life.